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A Higher Order Than the Law: Nuclear Waste in the Philippines

Regarding the front-page article "US Leaves Toxins at Subic Navy Base," Nov. 24: I am pleased that the Monitor has once more exhibited first-class journalistic practice by bringing into the open an example of the United States at just about its worst. We have long heaped abuse on the former Soviets for the destruction of their land by dumping nuclear waste over large patches of their domain.

In contrast, we have believed that we were much less heinous with our military waste practices, such as at the Hanford Plant in Washington State. Nor would we knowingly despoil another's land; we would never leave "behind an environmental disaster" in the Philippines.

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But apparently we have. Allegedly, we said, "We comply with host-country laws. In the Philippines, there are none, so we are not in violation of any." Such a statement declares that the Air Force believes there is no higher order than the law - that there are neither ethical nor moral principles. We need a new covenant that raises us to a higher plane of behavior. Robert H. Jones, Rochester, N.Y. Treading on nuclear danger

Regarding the editorial "Maintaining the Nuclear Alert," Nov. 9: I agree with the editorial that cold-war dangers continue to exist. Russia, as well as the [former] Soviet Republics of Kazakhstan, Belarus, and the Ukraine maintain their nuclear power and, as the editorial points out, may sell their technology to others.

Also, the number of countries that possesses nuclear weapons is growing. Countries such as China, India, and Pakistan, which were not considered nuclear threats before, are more advanced in their nuclear capabilities.

Also, the US should be cautious in opposing European and other countries that wish to acquire nuclear weapons. The US should not exhibit the attitude that it has the right to possess a nuclear arsenal while others do not. LaShawn Howell, Loretto, Tenn. Japanese plutonium

Regarding the Opinion page article "Japan Needs to Change Its Nuclear Course," Nov. 17: Japan's World War II aggression, in large measure, was driven by the desire to secure the oil resources of Asia for its energy-starved economy. Today, Japan is seeking energy independence through more peaceful means - by becoming self-sufficient through breeder reactors, which produce and recycle plutonium.

The author faults the Japanese for pursuing such independence, raising the specter of accidents or diversions that, in reality, have extraordinarily small likelihoods. The material is escorted, safeguarded, and not in a very usable form for weapons. It is the trafficking in real nuclear arms, of which there are tens of thousands, that should occupy the author's interest, not the efforts of a nation to avoid the root causes of war. Theodore Besmann, Oak Ridge, Tenn.

As the author reports, Japan plans to use almost 100 tons of plutonium over the next two decades in a gargantuan plan for nuclear fuel production. Aside from the many negative ramifications cited by the author for such a project, neither he nor the Japanese have brought up what may well be the most important aspect of this scenario: What do the Japanese plan to do with the resultant vast amounts of radioactive waste? Frieda Arkin, Essex, Mass.

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